Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a renowned professor of psychology and the author of the book “Flow and Psychology of Discovery and Invention” and is the latest book by the professor. In this book, creativity is closely examined by the author and clearly brought out in the chapters though some people believe that Mihaly has relied too much on the academic definitions of creativity.

We all have experiences that we regard to as demanding and which are very rewarding if we keep persisting in doing them (Csikszentmihalyi 1996). Mihaly, emphasis on the book is how these experiences produce people who the society regards as successful. However, one thing that is outstanding in the book is how Mihaly has great efforts into his work which can be evidenced by the case studies he has conducted.

It has taken him a great deal of work to come up with the data and hence the book itself can be said to reflect the characteristics of the author. To begin with, the author himself has created meaning in his life by producing a literary piece of work worthy to capture the attention of the reader.

The creative process is the first chapter in the book and where the author describes how creativity is achieved. The author ascertains that the universe conditions people to grow and be creative for them to become happy. In this chapter, the author defines what comprises happiness and why people are unhappy with themselves.

He however attributes people’s unhappiness to the frustrations that are there in the world and which makes people to be creative (Csikszentmihalyi 1996). After the creative process, the owner takes us to a deep insight of searching for creativity in the chapter “where is creativity” this chapter tries to analyze creativity of an individual.

In this chapter we learn that creativity lies in the experiences that we find most enjoyable taking part in and these activities later on become very rewarding in our lives. Creativity is depicted as a process and not some phenomenon that happens all of a sudden.

To Mihaly, creative ideas go through the three steps bottlenecks of culture that an individual is predisposed and therefore shaping our experiences and frustrations and in turn intriguing our creativity. The next step involves an individual who is ready to take the challenges presented to him or her by the society and bring out the symbolic domain of culture.

However, the individual takes up the challenge that the type of culture he or she has been predisposed to and brings out his or her creative mind and which goes through the final stage of recognition by other people or the audience of innovation and the discoveries that an individual makes.

The creative personality (Csikszentmihalyi 1996) is the person who takes challenges that the environment presents and comes up with the discoveries and the innovations. The author further clarifies that different people have different experiences and it’s up to individuals to make their lives worthwhile thus different people find happiness in what they do in different ways.

I find Mihaly’s presentation of the book very appealing to the reader. To Mihaly, different people achieve satisfaction in their own way through the meaning they apply to their lives. It is outstanding to note that the author does not provide a general recipe to creativity but provides the reader with actual facts regarding creativity.

Chapter five is the flow of creativity. This chapter further illustrates that creativity is very natural and happens unconsciously. The flow of creativity is at a point where the creative individual is very absorbed or obsessed with what is making his or her feel content in his or her life. According to the author, this stage allows an individual to be at peace with his or her inner self.

Concurring with Mihaly, on flow of creativity, individuals who are creative (Csikszentmihalyi 1996) are absorbed in what they do and are less mindful of how they appear to others. This are the individuals who do not seek approval from the society but are content if they are doing what they like and understand the most.

The ideas conveyed through the chapters are progressive and the author goes on to explain that the individuals have to be in the creative surrounding to be creative or conditions that favor creativity. If it’s a person with a passion for music, the surrounding has to favor the development of music creativity.

Csikszentmihalyi (1996) acknowledges that the early years is the age where the individual tries to identify where his or her talents lies in. This stage is marked by confusion where the individual tries to curve a niche in the society in regard to his or her talents and hence become creative.

At this stage, the creative minds are very inquisitive of the surrounding and the things that are triggering their interests. In later years of the individual, the individual is set on his or her creativities and therefore follows his experiences confidently.

Creative aging is the stage where the individual’s creativity through discoveries and inventions becomes rewarding. The individual has established him or herself fully and get benefits of what he does through his or her creativity.

The domain of word is the tenth chapter in the book. Though an individual maybe talented, it takes a willing individual to bring out the creativity in him or her. Individuals have to rise above their challenges and the work that an individual projects to his or her creativity is what really counts.

Domain of life further explores that it takes an individual with a passion to pursue his creativity. The individual has to take the experiences of life and bring out his or her creativity.

In the domain of future (Csikszentmihalyi 1996), creative individuals are always thought to be anticipating of what the future would be. It is however important to note that the author describes a domain as a rule or a procedure that has to be followed in all the domains by the creative individual.

The second last chapter is the making of culture where creativity becomes the norm of the individual. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) argues that the individual gets accustomed to being innovative and in turn he or she creates a culture of his or her creativity.

The final chapter in the book reviews how an individual can enhance his or her creativity. I find this chapter interesting to the reader where he or she can relate his or her experiences to enhance his or her own creativity.

However, I strongly disagree with Mihaly whereby he does not consider a person to be creative unless his or her creativity gains the attention of others in the society. The author illustrates this by using the metaphor of a tree. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1996) creativity is compared to the sound of the fall of the tree by saying that if a tree fell in the forest and the sound is not heard by anybody, it goes unnoticed and so is creativity.

To Mihaly, creative ideas have to be received and acknowledged by others. In my own view, a person can be creative in their own ways but this does not mean that I discredit the professor’s work for I only disagree with his policy that creativity has to be recognized by others.

I tend to believe that Mihaly only portrayed that creativity is only relevant if only it’s recognized by others so that the author could avoid the subjective approach that his scientific analysis of creativity would have taken were everybody who thought to be talented believed he or she was creative. I am for the strong belief that individuals are creative and have creative minds even if it does not result to recognition by the public.

In conclusion, Mihaly has brought out creativity as a real concept as compared to the abstract concept of creativity commonly held by people. He has shown that creativity is a process and a journey throughout the life of the individual.

Most people believe that a person is born with certain qualities that make them creative. However, according to (Csikszentmihalyi 1996) for creativity to proliferate, an individual goes through a process and overcomes a number of factors including his or her surrounding. The creative individual has to have the will power to explore the creativity locked inside him or her.

The book however is a reality to those who think that a person becomes creative by the mere fact of being lucky. It does not provide an easy step to be creative and successful in the society rather than a long journey to success. It is a shift from the psychological thinking and explanations of creativity by incorporating quantitative studies and therefore subjectivity is eliminated.

I would further conclude by saying that the book is a literary piece of work for all those aspiring to bring out their creativity and enhance their lives not necessarily for public recognition but for fulfillment in their lives. Ideas in the book are clearly laid out throughout the three parts that the book is divided into.


Csikszentmihalyi, M, 1996, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, New York, HarperCollins, 1st Ed.

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